The Federal Government says it plans to revitalise and reposition the six zonal sickle cell disease centres across the country for improved service delivery.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said this in a statement signed by Mr Olusegun Adetola, the Director, Media and Public Relations in the ministry, on Saturday in Abuja.
The minister spoke at the commemoration of the 2021 World Sickle Cell Day, which has “Shine The Light on Sickle Cell” as its theme.
Ehanire said: “The Federal Government remains committed to improving access to care for those living with the disease; hence the plans to reposition and revive the centres in six zones.”
He said that the other government’s measures included the implementation of the national guideline for sickle cell prevention as well as the control and management of the disease, including the protocol for new-borns screening.’
Besides, the minister hinted of plans for the integration of sickle cell disease care and services into the maternal and child health services, particularly at the primary and secondary levels of healthcare delivery in Nigeria.
According to him, the integration will improve early identification of cases and enrolment into the comprehensive care for sickle cell disease.
He said that government would scale up advocacy and mass mobilisation of communities on the disease across the country, including continuous advocacy for access to drugs and diagnostics for the disease and mass mobilisation for support for the screening of new-borns’ policy.
“There will be strengthening of supportive supervision, monitoring and evaluation. We will also institutionalise early identification of cases through universal new-borns’ screening at all levels of care.
“We will also be partnering with social, community, civil society groups, development partners and the private sector to improve social impacts, initiate and enhance sickle cell disease surveillance,” he said.
The minister said that the sickle cell disease, though endemic in Nigeria, was definitely preventable.
According to him, Nigerians must all make concerted efforts to check their genotype and key into the initiative, so that together, the country can halt this epidemic.
“This will ensure the reduction in the prevalence of the disease in our country,” he said.
Ehanire explained that the disease was a genetic disorder which occurred when an individual had inherited two mutant abnormal haemoglobin genes from both parents.
He stressed that the government would build synergy with civil society organisations, international institutions and development partners toward the prevention, control and management of the disease in Nigeria.
He said that available records showed that the disease affected nearly 100 million people worldwide and was also responsible for over 50 per cent of deaths in those with the most severe form of the disease.
According to him, sickle cell disease is the most prevalent genetic disease in the African region, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The minister said that in many African countries, including Nigeria, between 10 per cent and 40 per cent of the population carried the sickle-cell gene, resulting in estimated disease prevalence of at least two per cent.
He said that the situation in the African region also indicated that national policies and plans were inadequate; while appropriate facilities and trained personnel were scarce.
He also said that adequate diagnostic tools and treatment were insufficient for the prevention and control of the disease.
Ehanire noted that Nigeria currently had the highest burden of the disease in the world — ahead of Democratic Republic of Congo and India — with an estimated 25 per cent of its adult population being carriers of defective S-genes.
“The WHO in 2015 estimated that two per cent of new-borns in Nigeria are affected by sickle cell anaemia, giving a total of about 150,000 affected children born every year.
“About 50 to 80 per cent of the estimated 150,000 infants born yearly with the disease in Nigeria die before the age of five years.
“While those that manage to survive suffer end-organs damage, which shortens their lifespan, including stroke,” he said.
The minister stressed that the sickle cell disease was among the top five Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) significantly contributing to maternal, neonatal, infant and child disability, morbidity and mortality.
According to him, the disease is a one disorder that may negatively undermine the attainment of the first, third and fourth UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Ehanire said that the theme of the 2021 commemoration had given Nigeria a unique opportunity to create appreciable public awareness about the increasing burden of sickle cell anaemia and the need to eliminate the negative notions associated with the disease.